Water use along the lower Colorado River is allocated as “consumptive use,” which is defined to be the amount of water diverted from the river minus the amount that returns to the river. Diversions of water from the river include surface water in canals and water removed from the river by pumping wells in the aquifer connected to the river. A complication in accounting for water pumped by wells occurs if the pumping depletes water in drains and reduces measured return flow in those drains. In that case, consumptive use of water pumped by the wells is accounted for in the reduction of measured return flow. A method is needed to understand where groundwater pumping will deplete water in the river and where it will deplete water in drains. To provide a basis for future accounting for pumped groundwater in the Parker-Palo Verde-Cibola area, a superposition model was constructed. The model consists of three layers of finite-difference cells that cover most of the aquifer in the study area. The model was run repeatedly with each run having a pumping well in a different model cell. The source of pumped water that is depletion of the river, expressed as a fraction of the pumping rate, was computed for all active cells in model layer 1, and maps were constructed to understand where groundwater pumping depletes the river and where it depletes drains. The model results indicate that if one or more drains exist between a pumping well location and the river, nearly all of the depletion will be from drains, and little or no depletion will come from the Colorado River. Results also show that if a well pumps on a side of the river with no drains in the immediate area, depletion will come from the Colorado River. Finally, if a well pumps between the river and drains that parallel the river, a fraction of the pumping will come from the river and the rest will come from the drains. Model results presented in this report may be considered in development or refinement of strategies for accounting for groundwater pumping in the river aquifer connected to the Colorado River in the study area.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Potential depletion of surface water in the Colorado River and agricultural drains by groundwater pumping in the Parker-Palo Verde-Cibola area, Arizona and California